Glass Half Full: Learning how to be a grandparent involves baby steps |

Glass Half Full: Learning how to be a grandparent involves baby steps

Sitting on the floor of our daughter and son-in-law’s home on Cape Cod, I’m waiting for Johanna Ruth (THE granddaughter) to risk letting go of her mother’s hand and toddle over to mine.

She’s managed the three-foot trek several times already, but each has been an adventure in trust and daring. Plus, she gets so excited that it’s hard maintain balance. Hers and mine, actually.

Jo’s challenges are mostly physical; mine are emotional. At times like these, what grandparent isn’t transported back to when one’s own children were very small?

There is so much that we have forgotten between the small steps our children first took and the giant strides with which they now cross life. Such amnesia can be healing.

Only rarely do I recall the time Hillary tripped and fell head first through a plate glass window. Or when Wayne and I, in two separate cars, each thought the other was taking Allison home and instead left her, age five, at a store.

We kind of panicked; she did not. She figured she knew where she was, therefore we knew where she was, and so she waited calmly until we returned.

On the other hand, listening to Johanna chortle and jabber so earnestly about who-knows-what, watching her explore her surroundings with such enthusiastic curiosity, appreciating her careful attempts to emulate her mother’s actions, I am time-warped back to Denver and the age of 26.

My husband’s dreams often include our daughters at much earlier times in their lives. Mine never do. I don’t believe Hillary or Allison has ever appeared in one of my dreams as anything but their current age at the time.

However, my memories are strong and images clear. What time has allowed is the erasure of most of the bumps and bruises and Mother Mistakes. I’m glad I was not a mother who worried too much about Life.

I hope my daughter will give our granddaughter that same gift. A child must be allowed to take those first small steps and fall before she will be able to take the big ones into the next stages of her journey.

So many parents are afraid their children will not be able to handle failure. Recently I heard a speaker posit that the opposite of success is not failure, it’s iteration.

Every time Johanna stumbles; every time she sinks to her knees and crawls instead of trying to walk the full distance, she has not failed; she is simply attempting a different iteration. Each day her steps are stronger, yet sometimes she’s just tired. Aren’t we all?

Johanna and I are both taking small steps: Jo into childhood and I into grandparenting and, let’s face it, very different chapters of life. Personally, I’m hoping for a really long chapter on my end. One never knows, however, so I counting on my granddaughter to take me by the hand and help me find my way.

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at

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